Tuesday, August 29, 2006

STRIKES

Tarts and lawyers are the two oldest professions in the world. And both aim to please. But to please whom- Opinions may differ and notwithstanding legal semantics. We lawyers, like tarts, must please our clients, customers. By boycotting the courts we fail in our primary objective - getting relief for them. Besides one must consider the morality of members of a noble (if it is still noble) and one might say essential (certainly true of tarts, but debatable for lawyers) professions going on strike. It undoubtedly interferes and obstructs the course of justice. Well in the legal world when someone does that, he commits a contempt of the Court.

If history serves me right, strikes were unheard of in the pre-independence era. Apart from the calls given during the freedom struggle to boycott all institutions, including the courts, it was never resorted to. In independent India the first one was when Justice AN Ray superseded his three colleagues, after Keshvanand Bharti case, to become the Chief Justice of India. Since then strikes have never looked back. They are on the rise. It is not only the Indian population, which is on the rise.

We go on a strike, for every conceivable issue, irrespective of any issue being conceived. Are they proper? Do we achieve anything? I can't think of any reason for which a strike should be resorted to. We all know what was the impact of the first landmark strike of independent India when Indira Gandhi superseded Justice H.R. Khanna (due to the Habeas Corpus case decision), a judge in whose honour, according to the New York Times, a monument should be erected in every city. We, the lawyers, wanted to constitute an Independent Judiciary but instead of that laid down a sound foundation for strikes.

YV Chandrachud (Retd. Chief Justice of India) has occasion to say that legal system is on
'the verge of collapse.'
RS Pathak (Retd. Chief Justice of India) took some bite out of it,
‘... [It is] merely in a state of crisis.'
Two eminent judges may debate about it but the fact remains that the system, given the present state of affairs, if it has not done so already, will wither away. In Allen Vs Alfred McAlpine ,1968 (I) AllER 543, Denning rightly remarked,
‘Law’s delays have been intolerable. They have lasted so long as to turn the justice sour.’

True, neither strikes are the sole reason for delays nor will their abolition clear off the delays, but the first and foremost question is of the right mental attitude to tackle the problem. And we must begin with what we the lawyers can do- stop strikes.

I began this note with tarts. Let me end up with them. I am quite charmed by them. They never claim to belong to a noble profession. They are not hypocrites. If history is any witness then tarts do have gone on strikes, then why should we also.

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